Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Search Results

Collections Search Center
3 documents - page 1 of 1

Oral history interview with Michael and Magdalena Suarez Frimkess

Interviewee:
Frimkess, Michael, 1937-  Search this
Frimkess, Magdalena Suarez  Search this
Interviewer:
Karlstrom, Paul J.  Search this
Names:
Clay Art Center -- Students  Search this
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America  Search this
Otis Art Institute -- Faculty  Search this
Otis Art Institute -- Students  Search this
University of California, Berkeley. Department of Art -- Students.  Search this
Rosen, Clara  Search this
Voulkos, Peter, 1924-2002  Search this
Extent:
83 Pages (Transcript)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Pages
Sound recordings
Interviews
Date:
2001 March 8-April 17
Scope and Contents:
An interview of Michael Frimkess and his wife, Magdalena Suarez Frimkess, conducted 2001 March 3-April 17, by Paul Karlstrom, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, in the Frimkesses' studio/home, Venice, California.
Frimkess speaks of his early life in East Los Angeles, growing up in a multi-ethnic neighborhood, and later moving with his family to Hollywood; his interest in modeling figures beginning at age 3; studying with Peter Voulkos at Otis Art Institute beginning in 1955; his animation for United Productions of America, where he worked on Mr. Magoo as an "in-betweener"; his drug use; playing the saxophone and his goal to "blow" like Charlie Parker; Voulkos's "pot shop" at Otis; following Voulkos to the University of California at Berkeley to learn bronze casting; and Vouklos's teaching methods. Frimkess also discusses his interest in classical Greek and Chinese proportions and simplicity of design in his ceramics; how playing music has helped him to be more ambidextrous and develop dry throwing; Clara Rosen as a mentor; his spiritual connection to other dimensions when throwing; his isolation from the craft community because of his multiple sclerosis and the controversy over his technique; the article he wrote "The Importance of Being Classical" (Craft Horizons, March/April 1966) and its impact on his career; Super Mud and other conferences; using his ceramics to express his political ideas about America as a melting pot; his imagery; plans for his upcoming exhibition in Korea; and his lack of production over the past 20 years. Michael Frimkess recalls Paul Soldner, Michael Cardew, Ken Price, Garth Clark, James Melchert, Ron Nagel, Richard Shaw, and others. There is also a discussion with his wife Magdalena including such topics as her childhood in an orphanage in Caracas, Venezuela, where she began painting; her studies in Chile with artists Sewell Semen, Norman Calber, and Paul Harris; her scholarship to the Clay Art Center in Port Chester, N.Y., in 1963; meeting Michael at the Clay Art Center and their relationship; their financial difficulties; setting up joint studio in which he threw pots and she glazed them; Michael's lack of participation in the craft community; and the state of his health.
Magdalena Frimkess also provided another informed perspective on the events described by her husband.
Biographical / Historical:
Michael Frimkess (1937- ) is a ceramist from Venice, California. Magdalena Frimkess is a ceramist from Venice, California. Paul J. Karlstrom is the director of the West Coast Resource Center, Archives of American Art, San Marino, California. Michael Frimkess was a leading innovator of the California fine art clay movement that grew up around Peter Voulkos and his "pot shop" at the Otis Art Institute. An element that distinguished the vessels that made Michael Frimkess's reputation was the surface decoration based on popular culture and a Pop Art sensibility. This signature style, consisting of small figures mimicking classical or pre-Columbian friezes, was further developed by Frimkess's wife Magdalena (Suarez Frimkess) who eventually, as Michael's multiple sclerosis progressed, did most of the painting of the vessels.
Magdalena was born in Venezuela and was sent to an orphanage at age 7, when her mother died and her father was unable to support her. Later she moved to Chile where her two children were born. When she was offered a fellowship to the Clay Art Center in New York her companion told her she would have to choose between that and him and the children. She reluctantly chose art, but kept up with her offspring who eventually moved to California. Her sculpture career was to a large extent subsumed after she met and married Michael Frimkess.
General:
Originally recorded on 6 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 12 digital wav files. Duration is 6 hr., 2 min.
Provenance:
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Topic:
Art -- Study and teaching -- Chile  Search this
Potters -- California -- Interviews  Search this
Pottery -- Study and teaching -- United States.  Search this
Ceramicists -- California -- Interviews  Search this
Decorative arts  Search this
Genre/Form:
Sound recordings
Interviews
Identifier:
AAA.frimke01
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/mw90b4f4424-8f3e-433d-a868-3150ad81b171
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-frimke01
Online Media:

Oral history interview with William Underhill

Interviewee:
Underhill, William, 1933-  Search this
Interviewer:
Carney, Margaret, 1949-  Search this
Creator:
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America  Search this
Names:
Alfred University -- Faculty  Search this
Lee Nordness Galleries  Search this
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America  Search this
Voulkos, Peter, 1924-2002  Search this
Extent:
41 Pages (Transcript)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Pages
Sound recordings
Interviews
Date:
2002 June 8
Scope and Contents:
An interview of William Underhill conducted 2002 June 8, by Margaret Carney, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, in Wellsville, N.Y.
Underhill speaks of being born in Berkeley, California, to parents who were art teachers; the differences between the West Coast Bay Area arts and crafts movement and that of the east coast; attending California College of Arts & Crafts for two years and then transferring to the University of California at Berkeley, in 1953, to enter the architecture program; building a dome out of aluminum for the city of Oakland's parks department with other students during the summer of 1956; being drafted into the Army in 1957; working for the U.S. Army headquarters in Germany as a draftsman; prominent and influential craft artists that he knew; marrying Linn Baldwin [Underhill], a fellow classmate, in 1957, and starting a family; re-entering UC Berkeley, finishing his B.A. degree in 1960 and completing his M.A. in 1961; his studies with Peter Voulkos; making bronze bowls, which led to his idea of casting wax, modeling wax fabrication, using sheet wax, and making textured sculpture and geometric shapes; having one of his bowl pieces in the Museum of Contemporary Crafts; the Oakland Museum buying a piece of his work; his teaching position at Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M.; being in the "Young Americans" exhibit and receiving the "Best of Show" award in 1962; most teachers trying to "emulate" the style of Peter Voulkos; moving to New York; showing at the Blumenfeld Gallery; sharing a studio next to the Clay Arts Center in Port Chester, N.Y.; building a foundry and a melting facility; teaching part-time at a community adult art center in White Plains, N.Y.; his financial difficulties; teaching part-time at Pratt Institute in 1965; J. Gordon Lippincott, of the industrial firm Lippincott and Margolies, commissioning him to do large scale steel sculptures for major corporations; working as a draftsman in an architect's office in New York City to pay for rent and groceries in 1966; teaching a summer session at Columbia's Teacher's College; teaching full-time as an instructor at New York University in 1967; teaching a workshop at Alfred University, in 1963; interviewing for a teaching position at Alfred at the College Art Association meeting, in Boston, in 1968; moving in the summer of 1969 to Alfred to teach; his counter-culture lifestyle and consequent decrease in his artistic production; showing at the Lee Nordness Gallery in the 1960s; exhibiting at the Perimeter Gallery, Helen Drutt Gallery, Twining Gallery, and Garth Clark Gallery in the 1980s; creating the bronzed statue of King Alfred for Alfred University and selling his copyright to them; his signature stamp; having pieces in the American Craft Museum and in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's collection; teaching at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, the Anderson Ranch, and the Mendocino Art Center; various craft magazines including Craft Horizons and Metalsmith; being a member of the American Craft Council [ACC]; his retirement in 1997; and working at the Berkeley Art Foundry in the summer of 2002. Underhill also recalls Robert Arneson, Josephine Blumenfeld, Diane Cox, Val Cushing, Peter Dodge, Jack Earl, Andrew Jevremovic, Manuel Neri, Bill Parry, Ted Randall, Dan Rhodes, Glenn Zweygardt, and others.
Biographical / Historical:
William Underhill (1933- ) is a metalsmith from Wellsville, N.Y. Margaret Carney is an art historian from New York.
General:
Originally recorded on 2 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 4 digital wav files. Duration is 2 hr., 7 min.
Provenance:
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Restrictions:
Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.
Occupation:
Sculptors -- New York (State)  Search this
Topic:
Art metal-work -- Study and teaching  Search this
Art metal-work -- Technique  Search this
Art -- Economic aspects  Search this
Bronze founding -- Technique  Search this
Decorative arts  Search this
Genre/Form:
Sound recordings
Interviews
Identifier:
AAA.underh02
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/mw95087d49d-5038-472c-9acd-5e8f7ca6ca3c
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-underh02
Online Media:

Oral history interview with William Underhill, 2002 June 8

Interviewee:
Underhill, William, 1933-  Search this
Interviewer:
Carney, Margaret, 1949-  Search this
Subject:
Voulkos, Peter  Search this
Alfred University  Search this
Lee Nordness Galleries  Search this
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America  Search this
Type:
Sound recordings
Interviews
Topic:
Art metal-work -- Study and teaching  Search this
Art metal-work -- Technique  Search this
Art -- Economic aspects  Search this
Bronze founding -- Technique  Search this
Decorative arts  Search this
Theme:
Craft  Search this
Record number:
(DSI-AAA_CollID)12395
(DSI-AAA_SIRISBib)237765
AAA_collcode_underh02
Theme:
Craft
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_oh_237765
Online Media:

Modify Your Search







or


Narrow By
  • Archival materials
  • Collection descriptions
  • Interviews
  • Sound recordings
  • Archival materials
  • Collection descriptions
  • Interviews
  • Sound recordings
  • Archives of American Art